Mental health nightmare for family of teenage girl who has attempted suicide twice

By David Tucker

Published 22/03/2016 | 00:00

Wexford General Hospital
Wexford General Hospital

A 13-year-old girl, who has twice attempted suicide, has been kept on a medical ward at Wexford General Hospital for the past seven weeks because nowhere more appropriate for her care can be found 'within the system'.

The child's mother says the child and family support agency Tusla is to blame for the terrible situation as it had refused to engage with her or an advocate working on her behalf to place the girl in a specialist unit in Naas operated by Nua Healthcare.

Tusla, she says, will not refer her to the unit, preferring to 'leave her in a safe place' at a medical and critical illness ward at Wexford General, which she claims is ill-equipped to deal with a suicidal child.

A Wexford-town based advocate for the child's family described the situation as 'horrific'.

'No-one wants to take responsibility,' she told this newspaper.

The chaotic state of child and adolescent mental health services in County Wexford and the wider ireland has been highlighted by the plight of a 13-year-old girl who has been on a medical ward at Wexford General Hospital for the past seven weeks.

The child's mother lays the blame firmly at the door of the family support agency Tusla which she says will not refer her to an appropriate private centre, although there are no suitable places at any of the State-operated specialist units.

The girl has twice attempted suicide and has been at the hospital since January 31, following the second attempt.

Her mother says Tusla will not refer her to a specialist unit in Naas being operated by Nua HealthCare, preferring to 'leave her in a safe place' at a medical and critical illness ward at Wexford General, which is ill-equipped to deal with a suicidal child.

A Wexford-town based advocate for the child's family described the situation as 'horrific'.

'No-one wants to take responsibility.. no matter who has got involved in this case, they (the State agencies) have refused point blank to do their job and have relied on red tape to get out of doing it,' she told this newspaper.

While Tusla will not provide reasons to the children's mother as to why it will not refer the child to for the place being offered by Nua, her mother believes the lack of action is a money issue. The child's mother is extremely concerned about the lack of proper treatment for her daughter, whom she says is becoming increasingly unwell and is now threatening violence against carers at the hospital who are not trained to deal with her.

'There is nowhere available in Wexford. My daughter sits in bed all day long and can't even access her school work.'

Both Ministers Leo Varadkar and Howlin are aware of this case, and last week Minister Howlin and Wexford Councillor George Lawlor met the woman to try to move the case on. She said Minister Howlin, who is currently out of the country, told her that money was not a problem.

Cllr Lawlor said he couldn't understand why what was a very urgent issue had not been dealt with by now.

'This case requires urgent attention from Tusla.. it is absolutely unacceptable that this child has been forced to remain a patient in Wexford General Hospital. It is completely unsuitable for the treatment this child requires and is grossly unfair to her family and staff at the hospital who are not equipped to deal with the situation and I am calling on Tusla to sort this out,' he said.

'It appears that Tusla is content to do nothing because they deems she's in a safe place when in fact she is constantly at risk because the level of care and resources are not available in Wexford. I would have expected at this stage that the family would have been taken care of.. it's ridiculous that there is a place available and they won't place the child in it,' said Cllr Lawlor.

The child's mother said she had been referred by Tusla to CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) - who she was told had to provide funding - and then referred back to Tusla and had tried to make contact with officials in both agencies at all levels, gradually escalating the level of contacts to try to get something done, all to no avail.

'I have taken every step on the ladder, but nothing has been done,' she said.

She said she had been referred by a junior health minister, following an approach to Minister Varadkar, to the facilities being run by Nua Health Care which would be able to properly assess her daughter's condition and provide proper treatment.

Unbelievably, seven weeks on, she said there had been no proper diagnosis carried out as to what is prompting her violent and suicidal tendencies. Tusla, she said, had refused to appoint a social worker to her daughter's case, telling her that 'it's not our problem'. She said that Easter fast approaching, she feared that nothing would be done until well after the holiday.

'Basically we are back to looking for a bed in the (State) mental health services that doesn't exist. In six to eight months she could still be sitting in Wexford General Hospital.. I blame Tusla for this situation, they are a law unto themselves,' she said.

Tusla was asked to comment on the situation, but did not respond. A spokesperson for the Ireland East Hospital Group had no comment to make and the HSE said it was not an issue for them to comment on.

a 13-year-old girl, who has twice attempted suicide, has been kept on a medical ward at Wexford General Hospital for the past seven weeks because nowhere more appropriate for her care can be found 'within the system'.

The child's mother says the child and family support agency Tusla is to blame for the terrible situation as it had refused to engage with her or an advocate working on her behalf to place the girl in a specialist unit in Naas operated by Nua Healthcare.

Tusla, she says, will not refer her to the unit, preferring to 'leave her in a safe place' at a medical and critical illness ward at Wexford General, which she claims is ill-equipped to deal with a suicidal child.

A Wexford-town based advocate for the child's family described the situation as 'horrific'.

'No-one wants to take responsibility.. no matter who has got involved in this case, they (the State agencies) have refused point blank to do their job and have relied on red tape to get out of doing it,' she told this newspaper.

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